“Landsailor” isn’t my favorite Vienna Teng song.
Musically, it’s pretty simple, especially compared to some of her other work. There’s some clever lyrical twists—actually, there’s a whole pile of metaphors and allusions, which I appreciate—but again, no more than I’d expect from her. Compared to what seemed like shocking variety on the rest of the album, her first in years, “Landsailor” felt forgettable.
And yet, several years later, “Landsailor” has stuck with me after all. It’s a song about nature and technology and capitalism and humanity…and about climate change. None of that is really hidden, and the weighty themes certainly don’t necessarily make it a good song. (The story of “Landsailor”’s creation touches on this, which I won’t repeat right now.) But the song doesn’t say it’s about climate change; what it says is
but there’s a storm outside your door
and I’m a child no more
I’m drifting towards being a climate fatalist these days—not that it’s not worth fighting, but that we’re past “stop” and well into “mitigate”—and so it’s partly worth keeping “Landsailor” just to have an auxiliary perspective. Humanity has wrought magic in our modern world, but like any good story of magic you have to be prepared to pay the price. Yet that’s not automatically a negative thing—it’s still possible to use magic as long as you choose what prices to pay.
In the bed that we’ve made
May every nail be shown
It’s time, past time, to grow up.
[originally posted on Facebook]